God’s Work Leads to Good Works

Posted: February 22, 2009 in Titus

Titus 3:1-15, “God’s Work Leads to Good Works”

So imagine you’re Titus – you’ve been left in Crete by the apostle Paul, faithfully ministering there, spreading the gospel, setting up the Church & probably wondering if you’ve been doing things correctly. Then unexpectedly, you get a letter from your father in the faith with some very specific instructions and encouragement to keep on keeping on. Your 1st thought is: what a joy! Your 2nd thought is probably: So what did Paul want to say? Although there has been some deep theology shared – the main theme is evident: Christians ought to engage in good works. We saw it in Ch 1 when Paul showed that false teachers disqualified themselves from every good work – in Ch 2 regarding how different people in the church were to act & how we ought to be zealous for good works (they ought to be desirable things for us to do – we ought to get excited about the opportunity)…

As Paul closes out the letter to Titus, he repeats the theme of good works in the life of a believer. We have good works in our personal living – we’ve experienced the good work of God in our salvation – and God’s work is the motivation for our good works.

Titus 3 (NKJV)
– Personal living…what we ought to do as believers…
1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.

A. With Timothy, Paul had also addressed the issue of how the Church ought to relate to government, but his emphasis there was on prayer (2 Tim 2:1-3). In Titus, the emphasis is on attitude. We’re to be “subject” to those in authority & “obey” them. Romans 13:1-2 (1) Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. (2) Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. []
__a. Even the government leaders we don’t agree with? Yes…Paul’s governing authority was the Roman Empire… [] This doesn’t mean we can’t work for change. It does mean that we ought do so in a respectful, God-honoring manner…
__b. What if the gov’t asks you to do something contradictory to Scriptural teaching? Follow the example of the apostles when the Sanhedrin put them on trial for preaching the gospel (Acts 5)… Obey God rather than men, but do so in humility & respect…

B. Respect deals with attitude, but we also need to be ready to act. “Be ready for every good work”…not necessarily a grammatical tie to government; this is a general command & one that Paul is going to come back to throughout the chapter. Just like we need to be ready to give an answer for the reason of the hope within us (1 Pet 3:15), we need to be ready to do good works…both are necessary!

C. Beyond the government, we should treat ALL our neighbors with respect:
__a. “to speak evil of no one”: Gk (blasphemy) – obviously not a reference to God, so much as one another. We blaspheme one another when we vilify or rail on one another – or exaggerate and assume what someone’s motives are. That doesn’t mean we stay silent about sin or sweep things under the rug – but we ought to go about it in a way that is not speaking evil of each other.
__b. “to be peaceable”: Gk is in the negative – literally, this is “non-fighting”…
__c. “to be gentle”: That which is fitting behavior in society – to be gentlemen, etc.
__d. To show “humility”: KJV “meekness” – also appropriate.
__e. IOW, Christians ought not to be rude, coarse, rabble-rousers. That’s what we were; not what we are.

D. Keep in mind that our actions affect our witness. Obviously Paul wasn’t writing to all people in Crete; just the Christians there (through Titus). Cretans were known for a bad reputation, so the obedient, respectful behavior of those within the Church towards their authorities would have made for a powerful witness of the gospel of Christ…it would have been one thing that set them apart from everyone else.

3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.

A. At one point, we were NOT peaceable, humble, etc…we were sinners & we acted like it! We were:
__a. “foolish”: Gk negative again – literally “no comprehension; no thinking’.
__b. “disobedient”: To God, through whatever revelation we were aware of…whether Creation (Rom 1:20), our conscience (Rom 2:15), or the Law of God itself.
__c. “deceived”: Although we cannot blame our sin on deception, there’s no doubt that before we were saved, we were indeed deceived. Just like Adam, bought into the lies of the Deceiver as we questioned what we knew about God & thought we ought to be our own final authority.

B. That deals with our character; Paul goes on to deal with our unsaved actions:
__a. We served “various lusts & pleasures” – could be translated “enslaved to various lusts & pleasures…” We had no choice except to obey our hedonistic fleshly desires.
__b. We lived in “malice & envy”: Self-explanatory – we were wicked & jealous.
__c. We were “hateful”: We both hated and were hated. Gk “hateful” comes from their mythological river leading into Hades (Styx)…as pagans, we engaged in truly hellish behavior. [] What a contrast to those in Christ Jesus! After you trust Him & are born again, for the 1st time you can truly understand what love really is… Everything else in comparison to it is hatred.

4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,

A. “But” – what a beautiful word! Something happened that changed the way we used to act – what was it? The kindness & love of God our Savior! …

B. “kindness”: Like a sovereign king bestowing a “kindness” upon one of his subjects. [David & Mephibosheth – 2 Sam 9] That’s what God does for us in salvation! He by no means has to save us…He is under no obligation to do so. But out of His incredible mercy & love He desires to show us kindness.
__a. Our God is a GOOD God! He wants to show the world His kindness…

C. Why does God desire to bestow His kindness? Because He loves us! Keep in mind that humans were the crowning moment of His creation. Although we war against God in our sin & act as His enemies, He still loves us. Gk φιλανθρωπία (philanthropy) = “love of man.”

D. How did it appear? Through the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ Jesus! God became flesh & dwelt among us, revealing to us the love & grace & truth of God to us – He took our sin upon Himself & died in our place as our substitute sacrifice – conquered death, rose again, and is alive today. You BET the love of God appeared!

5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,

A. Did God’s kindness & love come to us because we deserved it? Absolutely not! It was “not by works of righteousness which we have done”… Throughout the letter, the Church has been exhorted to do good works (and we get another exhortation today) – but good works come as a result of salvation; they are not the cause…
__a. Be assured of this one truth about the gospel: if there was anything at ALL possible that we humans could have done to be righteous in the sight of God (be it certain prayers, $ given, acts of mercy, etc) – if anything would have been sufficient – Jesus would never have gone to the Cross. God the Father did not send His only begotten Son to torturous death because it was the easiest mode of salvation; He sent Him there because it was the only mode.

B. So why did His kindness & love appear? Because of the outpouring of “His mercy”

C. What happens during our salvation? The Holy Spirit gives us a new birth & we are regenerated & renewed. Grammatically, we need to take this as two terms describing the same work of the Holy Spirit…His regenerative work is also His renewing work. What actually takes place? Keep in mind that because of sin & the Fall, our spirits are dead. Adam died spiritually in the Garden (before having any children) & thus passed on spiritual death to us. Our own sin ensures that we are spiritually dead in our trespasses (Eph 2:1) though we physically were alive. Thus we need a spiritual birth – and that’s what happens to us at salvation. John 3:5-6 (5) Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. [] At that moment, our spirit is regenerated (given life after death) & renewed (as we’re made into new creations in Christ)…
__a. Many scholars take “washing” to be a reference to physical baptism, as we are washed by water & the word (Eph 5:26). The problem with this interpretation is the context. Everything Paul is listing out here has to do with the work of God – and baptism is obviously an act of obedience based upon God’s already finished work. Contextually, it’s best to think of this as the spiritual work that God the Holy Spirit does. (That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with physical baptism – we are commanded to do it by Christ…)
__b. Keep in mind God is the author & finisher of our faith. Everything we are in Christ is due to His work & not our own. We merely respond to the work He’s already done…

6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

A. Obviously this is what took place at Pentecost – as Peter acknowledged the fulfillment of the prophet Joel in the birth of the church (Acts 2:16-17). But keep our context in mind here – this happens at our regeneration. This is something that happens to every believer in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit gives us new life & baptizes us into Christ – He indwells us and seals us for our salvation. And on an ongoing basis, He fills us anew gives us power to walk as witnesses for Christ…

B. God doesn’t hold back on the Holy Spirit – He poured it out on the church in abundance. How much is “abundant”? It’s like torrents or rivers of gushing water… John 7:38-39 (38) He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (39) But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. [] God doesn’t hold back on giving the Holy Spirit to us – our Heavenly Father will give the Spirit to all those who ask (Luke 11:13).
__a. There’s a tendency to think that we are saved by grace through faith as a work of God, but then God just drops us off on the corner & leaves us alone. Nothing could be further from the truth! Jesus specifically promised that He wouldn’t leave us as orphans, but that the Holy Spirit would abide with us forever (John 14:16). Power for walking in Christ is available – all we need do is ask & receive in faith.

C. Note the work of the Trinity in our salvation in vs. 4-6. God the Father showed His kindness & saved us by regeneration & renewal of the Holy Spirit, given to us abundantly through Christ Jesus. The entire Godhead is active in our salvation…

7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

A. What’s the result of being regenerated & renewed by the Holy Spirit? We are now justified (declared to be righteous…) in the sight of God. Again – this is due completely to His grace & His work in Christ Jesus.

B. Because of His grace, we are “heirs” – we have been born of the Spirit of God, adopted into His family & are made co-heirs with Christ. Not only are we forgiven, but we inherit eternal life & will reign with Jesus throughout the Millennium.

8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.

A. The “faithful saying” is most likely referring to the theology behind our salvation in vs. 4-7, but what’s interesting is that Paul ties it directly in with good works. This is what Paul wanted Titus to focus on in his teaching.

B. Why? Because doctrine ought to lead to action. If we have experienced the good work of God’s grace, then we ought to engage in & maintain good works ourselves…it’s the natural response to what God has done in our lives. (Briscoe) “The theology of Christianity is based on grace; the ethics of Christianity are based on gratitude.” Because of our gratitude to God in saving us, empowering us, and promising us eternal life, we have all the motivation we need to go out & do good to others – either in the Church or outside with our neighbors. It’s the only true logical response. Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. [] Our lives can be gladly spent giving God glory in gratefulness.

C. We don’t need to shy away from them or be scared we’re going to be lumped in with those who teach the so-called “social-gospel”… Good works are good! Good works demonstrate the sacrificial love of Christ to other Christians as we serve one another in various ways, helping to bear one another’s burdens & meet needs. Good works can also be a powerful demonstration of the gospel… [mission trips…]

9 But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.

A. We want to do good works & that involves avoiding things & practices that would distract us from what God has called us to do. That’s exactly what “foolish disputes,” etc., are. We get caught up in all sorts of debates about the nature of angels or nephilim (or whatever) & soon instead of sharing the gospel in word & deed – instead of helping one another in the Body – we end up bickering back & forth about items we’re probably BOTH mistaken…

B. Note this is also how false teachers & cults start sneaking their way into the church. “Strivings about the law” is likely a reference to Judaizers & is seen in legalism today. “Genealogies” were used to prove “true Jews” (and by Mormons today), but mean nothing considering true Jews are circumcised in the heart & the only genealogy that truly matters is Jesus’!
__a. Let’s keep the main thing the main thing. It’s about Jesus & the gospel!

10 Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.

A. Just like we avoid divisive works, we avoid divisive people. Gk αἱρετικός (heretic) = “to choose, divisive, schismatic, factious.” (Wuest) “A heretic is one therefore who refuses to accept true doctrine as it is revealed in the Bible, and prefers to choose for himself what he is to believe.”
__a. Is heresy strictly theological? Not necessarily…our usage of the word is typically theological, but the Greek refers simply to division. Thus someone who goes through the Church creating factions & driving wedges between people could still be technically labeled a “heretic” even though they have an accurate statement of faith or confession. Even in this case, their true theology would be betrayed by their actions – showing that they do not value the love of Christ & unity of the Body.

B. Interesting description of heretics/divisive men – “warped and sinning…self-condemned…” Those who keep trying to cause division after being confronted twice on the matter truly are warped…self-obsessed & self-condemned. As with other sin in the church, the person is to be lovingly confronted & if he/she persists in sin, they are to be rejected & treated as an unbeliever.

12 When I send Artemas to you, or Tychicus, be diligent to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey with haste, that they may lack nothing.

A. Personal instructions… This is the only mention of Artemas & Zenas (apparently an expert in the Mosaic law) in the NT…obviously they were well-known to Paul & trusted by him. Apollos is surely the same person mentioned in Acts 18 & 1 Cor – many believe he was a lesser apostle, along the lines of Barnabas.

B. Note this 1st opportunity to do good works: the church at Crete could supply Zenas & Apollos for their journey…

14 And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.
A. Reiteration of “good works”… Good works ought to be marks of the Church & are part of the fruit of maturity in lives of believers.

15 All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen.
A. Personal greetings…

When we understand the incredible work of God’s grace in our lives, we can’t help but change! Of course we engage in good works now – what else would we do? When we were of the world, we engaged in wicked, selfish works – but now that we’re in Christ, our lives ought to reflect the agape love of God that saved us.

Beware of the faith that stays on a person’s lips and never makes it down to their feet. That’s a dangerous position to be in! As James is going to tell us (quite clearly), faith without works is dead (Jas 2:17). If we’re always professing faith in Jesus Christ but never show the love of Christ for the Church or act in compassion towards our neighbor – it may be an indication we don’t truly know Christ at all. When we are truly in Christ, we’re going to love not just in word or in tongue, but in deed & in truth (1 John 3:19). That’s not to say we buy into anyone’s particular vision of a “social agenda” – but that we personally and individually demonstrate the compassion of the One who bestowed His compassion & kindness upon us.

Have you experienced the compassion of Christ? God has already demonstrated His love for you by sending Jesus to die in your place on the cross. That much is a fact – but if you never receive His gift of grace, you still place yourself in the position of receiving His righteous wrath and judgment because of sin. Remember that without being reborn by God, you’re spiritually dead – you’re a dead-man-walking because of all the lies, lusts, selfishness & blasphemies we commit as we sin against our Creator God. But forgiveness is available! You can be born again today – repent & trust Jesus as Savior & Lord.


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